Federal Health Policy Update for Thursday, April 22

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 22.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

  • HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has published a new edition of its online publication The Exchange.  The issue focuses on the work of hospital allied and supportive care providers during COVID-19 and is divided into three subjects:  COVID-19 and acute hospital care, home care, and hospice; the role of allied health care professionals; and engineering and environmental support during COVID-19.  For each subject the issue directs readers to links detailing experiences from the field and to additional resources.  Learn more from the latest edition of The Exchange.
  • HHS has rescinded in its entirety the rule entitled “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:  Revisions to the Vaccine Injury Table,” which was finalized during the final days of the previous administration.  The rule made it more difficult for people to seek compensation from shoulder and fainting injuries associated with receiving vaccines.  The published notice repealing it noted that such a change could detract from the COVID-19 vaccination effort.  Learn more from the official Federal Register notice of the rescission.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Health Policy News

  • CMS has published the latest edition of MLN Connects, its weekly online publication about Medicare and Medicare reimbursement matters.  The following is the table of contents of this week’s edition, with links to each item.

News

Compliance

Events

Publications

Multimedia

  • CMS’s Office of Minority Health will hold a two-day virtual forum titled “The Road to Equity:  Examining Structural Racism in Health Care” on April 27 and April 28 to highlight its renewed focus on health equity, addressing structural racism in health care, and establishing federal agencies’ roles as equity partners.  Speakers from various federal and partner agencies will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on health disparities and initiatives to promote equity. Go here for information about the programs’ times, agendas, and registration.
  • CMS has issued a new release of its “Market Saturation and Utilization Data Tool.”  CMS describes the tool as something it uses

…to monitor market saturation as a means to help prevent potential fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA).  Market saturation, in the present context, refers to the density of providers of a particular service within a defined geographic area relative to the number of beneficiaries receiving that service in the area.  The data can be used to reveal the degree to which use of a service is related to the number of providers servicing a geographic region.  There are also a number of secondary research uses for these data, but one objective of making these data public is to assist health care providers in making informed decisions about their service locations and the beneficiary population they serve.

Learn about what is new in this latest release and find links to the data tool in this CMS fact sheet.

The White House

COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19

National Institutes of Health

  • The NIH announced that a Phase 2/3 trial to evaluate a new fully-human polyclonal antibody therapeutic targeted to COVID-19 has begun enrolling non-hospitalized people with mild or moderate cases of COVID-19.  Learn more from the NIH news release.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission

  • MedPAC has posted its formal comment letter on CMS’s final rule on Medicare coverage of innovative technology and its definition of “reasonable and necessary.”  Find the MedPAC letter here.

 

MedPAC Meets

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss various Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues discussed at MedPAC’s April meeting were:

  • Medicare skilled nursing facility value-based purchased program.
  • Medicare alternative payment models (APMs).
  • Medicare Advantage benchmark policy.
  • Medicare indirect medical education (Medicare IME) payments.
  • Medicare vaccine coverage and payments.
  • Medicare payment for prescription drugs prescribed on an outpatient basis.
  • Private equity and Medicare.
  • Medicare clinical laboratory fee schedule.

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving Medicare.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

MedPAC: Go Slow on Expanding Medicare Telehealth

MedPAC wants Medicare to test the impact of telehealth on health care under non-COVID-19 conditions before moving forward with expanding the tool’s use in the Medicare population.

In a news release accompanying its recently released annual report to Congress on Medicare payment policy, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission writes that

In the report, we present a policy option for expanded coverage for Medicare telehealth policy after the PHE is over. Under the policy option, policymakers should temporarily continue some of the telehealth expansions for a limited duration of time (e.g., one to two years after the PHE) to gather more evidence about the impact of telehealth on beneficiary access to care, quality of care, and program spending to inform any permanent changes. During this limited period, Medicare should temporarily pay for specified telehealth services provided to all beneficiaries regardless of their location, and it should continue to cover certain newly-covered telehealth services and certain audio-only telehealth services if there is potential for clinical benefit.

The policy option also specifies that after the PHE ends, Medicare should return to paying the physician fee schedule’s facility rate for telehealth services and collect data on the cost of providing those services. In addition, providers should not be allowed to reduce or waive beneficiary cost sharing for telehealth services after the PHE. CMS should also implement other safeguards to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries from unnecessary spending and potential fraud related to telehealth.

While MedPAC’s recommendations to Congress are not binding on the administration, its work is highly respected and it is considered influential in the development of Medicare reimbursement policy.

Learn more about what MedPAC has to say about telehealth services and other aspects of Medicare payment policy in this MedPAC news release and the MedPAC’s newly released Report to the Congress:  Medicare Payment Policy.

 

MedPAC Meets

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss various Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues discussed at MedPAC’s March meeting were:

  • Medicare beneficiary access to care in rural areas
  • skilled nursing facility value-based purchasing program and proposed replacement
  • streamlining CMS’s portfolio of alternative payment models
  • balancing efficiency with equity in Medicare Advantage benchmark policy
  • relationship between clinician services and other Medicare services
  • revising Medicare’s indirect medical education payments to better reflect teaching hospitals’ costs
  • Medicare’s vaccine coverage and payment
  • separately payable drugs in the hospital outpatient prospective payment system

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving Medicare.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

MedPAC Meets

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. recently to discuss various Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues discussed at MedPAC’s January meeting were:

  • hospital inpatient and outpatient payments
  • physician and health professionals payments
  • the possible expansion of the post-acute transfer policy to hospice
  • ambulatory surgical center, outpatient dialysis, and hospice payments
  • Medicare payments for skilled nursing facilities, long-term hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and home health services
  • the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation’s development and implementation of alternative payment models
  • the future of telehealth after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends
  • a status report on the Medicare Part D prescription drug program
  • a report on the skilled nursing facility value-based purchasing program and a proposed replacement for that program
  • Medicare’s vaccine coverage and payment policies

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving Medicare.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues and go here for a transcript of the two days of meetings.

MedPAC Meets

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

MedPAC’s proposed Medicare 2021 payment recommendations dominated the December agenda, including:

  • hospital inpatient and outpatient payments
  • ambulatory surgical center payments
  • physician and health professional payments
  • hospice payments
  • home health care payments
  • inpatient rehabilitation facility payments
  • long-term care hospital payments

In addition, MedPAC discussed Medicare’s policy for transfers between post-acute-care facilities and hospice and received a staff update on the Medicare Advantage program.

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving Medicare.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues and for a transcript of the two days of meetings.

MedPAC Meets

Earlier this week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues on MedPAC’s November agenda were:

  • expansion of telehealth in Medicare
  • report on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care in rural areas
  • effects of pharmaceutical rebates on Part D’s risk adjustment
  • improving competition among Medicare Part D’s benchmark plans
  • separately payable drugs in the hospital outpatient prospective payment system
  • Medicare Advantage payment and access for enrollees with end-stage renal disease

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

MedPAC Meets

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues on MedPAC’s October agenda were:

  • Medicare Advantage benchmark policy
  • indirect medical education:  current Medicare policy, concerns, and principles for revising
  • the evolution of Medicare’s advanced alternative payment models
  • vertical integration and Medicare payment policy

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues and here for a transcript of the proceedings.

MedPAC Meets

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

The issues on MedPAC’s September agenda were:

  • the coronavirus pandemic and Medicare
  • context for Medicare payment policy
  • report on the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014’s changes to the Medicare clinical laboratory fee schedule
  • expansion of telehealth in Medicare
  • Medicare coverage for vaccines

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

MedPAC Reports to Congress

MedPAC has submitted its annual report to Congress.

The congressionally mandated report, titled Report to Congress:  Medicare and the Health Care Delivery System, consists of seven chapters:

  • Realizing the promise of value-based payment in Medicare: an agenda for change.
  • Challenges in maintaining and increasing savings from accountable care organizations (ACOs).
  • Replacing the Medicare Advantage quality bonus program.
  • Mandated report: Impact of changes in the 21st Century Cures Act to risk adjustment for Medicare Advantage enrollees.
  • Realigning incentives in Medicare Part D.
  • Separately payable drugs in the hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS).
  • Improving Medicare’s end-state renal disease (ESRD) prospective payment system (PPS).

While MedPAC’s recommendations are not binding on Congress or the administration, they are highly respected and often find themselves worked into new law or regulations.

Go here to see MedPAC’s news release accompanying the report and here to find the report itself.